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(LEAD) Successful ICBM interceptor test shows U.S. can outpace missile threats through 2020: official

All Headlines 06:17 June 01, 2017

(ATTN: UPGRADES attribution throughout; ADDS details)
By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, May 31 (Yonhap) -- The successful shootdown of an intercontinental ballistic missile target in this week's interceptor test shows the United States can "outpace" foreign missile threats through 2020, the U.S. missile defense agency chief said Wednesday.

The Pentagon carried out the interceptor test over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, in which an ICBM-class target was fired from a site in the Marshall Islands and a ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to intercept and destroy the target.

It was the first live-fire test against an ICBM-class target for the U.S. ballistic missile defense system. The test came after a series of successful missile tests by North Korea that demonstrated steady progress in its pursuit of various types of missiles, including a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of reaching the U.S.

"The interceptor that we flew yesterday certainly ... helps us outpace the threat through 2020," Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said at a Pentagon briefing.

"I was confident before the test that we had the capability to defeat any threat that they would throw at us. And I'm even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday that we continue to be on that course," Syring said when asked if the U.S. is confident in defending against missile threats from North Korea and Iran.

Syring said initial results from the test indicate that the interceptor and ICBM was "a direct hit, a complete obliteration," but added that his agency will analyze the data over the next 30 days.

The official also said that the Pentagon is planning another test for August or September 2018 that will feature one target and two interceptors. The test is the "the next step to not only improving reliability but improving performance against the evolving threat," Syring said.

"We want to exercise the GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) system with more than one interceptor to gather data for what a first interceptor would do in terms of kill and what the second interceptor would see," he said.

Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency

jschang@yna.co.kr
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